Just as we cannot see electricity, but we can observe its results, or we cannot see the mental process objectively (although one can indeed observe thoughts processing internally), but we can see its impact in the world, so with the spiritual development, which is more subtle than the mental power, the observation is truly based on changes that take place for the individual in both the perception of one’s own being, body-life-mind, and the way one responds to events, circumstances and perceptions. There can be physical sensations that occur, and for some, the departure of the awareness from the body to a point outside the body is one of the more disorienting results that can occur. People who have had this experience report being able to stand outside or look down upon their body, and observe it in its immobile state, in some cases with people trying to deal with a suddenly unconscious physical existence in their presence!
Less ‘exciting’ but probably more important, seekers often see the results of the spiritual changes through a new way of dealing with and responding to pressures and circumstances. They may experience a new sense of peace or contentment where formerly they may have erupted in anger or anxiety. Or they may feel a new wideness and unity with a larger existence that expands far beyond what they have formerly considered to be their individual being. They may experience new streams of inspiration or a sense of intuition, or even the awakening of new capacities or talents, sometimes creative and sometimes in being able to understand and deal with people in a new way.
Sri Aurobindo writes: “The movement of ascension has different results; it may liberate the consciousness so that one feels no longer in the body, but above it or else spread in wideness with the body either almost non-existent or only a point in one’s free expanse. It may enable the being or some part of the being to go out from the body and move elsewhere, and this action is usually accompanied by some kind of partial samadhi or else a complete trance. Or, it may result in empowering the consciousness, no longer limited by the body and the habits of the external nature, to go within, to enter the inner mental depths, the inner vital, the inner (subtle) physical, the psychic, to become aware of its inmost psychic self or its inner mental, vital and subtle physical being and, it may be, to move and live in the domains, the planes, the worlds that correspond to these parts of the nature. It is the repeated and constant ascent of the lower consciousness that enables the mind, the vital, the physical to come into touch with the higher planes up to the supramental and get impregnated with their light and power and influence. And it is the repeated and constant descent of the Divine Consciousness and its Force that is the means for the transformation of the whole being and the whole nature. Once this descent becomes habitual, the Divine Force, the Power of the Mother, begins to work, no longer from above only or from behind the veil, but consciously in the Adhara itself, and deals with its difficulties and possibilities and carries on the yoga.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Inward Movement, pp. 174-179